Personality and Assessment

Personality and Assessment

Personality and Assessment

Personality and Assessment

Synopsis

After many "out-of-print" years, this volume has been reissued in response to an increasing demand for copies. This reflects that the fundamental questions that motivated this book thirty years ago are still being asked. But more important, the answers -- or at least their outlines -- now seem to be in sight. In 1968, this book stood as an expression of a paradigm crisis in its critique of the state of personality psychology. The last three decades have been filled with controversy and debate about the dilemmas raised here, and then with renewal and fresh discoveries. It therefore seems especially timely to revisit the pages which posed the challenges.

Mischel outlined the need to encompass the situation in the study of personality, but with a focus on the acquired meaning of stimuli and on the situation as perceived, viewing the individual as a cognitive-affective being who construes, interprets, and transforms the stimulus in a dynamic reciprocal interaction with the social world. He focused on the idiographic analysis of personality that had originally motivated the field, and the complexity, discriminative facility, and uniqueness of the individual, and sought to connect the expressions of personality to the individual's behavior -- that is, to what people do and not just what they say. Even the intrinsically contextualized "if...then..." expressions of the personality system -- its essential behavioral signatures -- were foreshadowed in this book that fired the opening salvo in a search for "a truly dynamic personality psychology."

Excerpt

After many "out-of-print" years, this volume is being reissued in response to an increasing demand for copies. This reflects, I would like to think, that the fundamental questions that motivated Personality and Assessment thirty years ago are still being asked. But more important, the answers--or at least their outlines--now seem to be in sight. In 1968, this book stood as an expression of a paradigm crisis in its critique of the state of personality psychology. The last three decades have been a heady time, first of controversy and debate about the dilemmas raised here, and then of renewal and fresh discoveries. It therefore seems especially timely to revisit the pages which posed the challenges.

In rereading the book, my own surprise is in finding--often in more succinct and clearer form--so much of what I have thought and written in the intervening years. First, the conceptual and empirical limitations of global trait-state constructs and the hazards of equating them with personality itself were described (in the first five chapters) in ways that still seem quite relevant today. This analysis, which proved to be so provocative and upsetting to the field, was widely taken as an attack on personality, rather than what I had intended it to be: a critique of the existing paradigm and a step toward the constructive reconceptualization of personality, as sketched in the remaining chapters.

In this volume, I outlined the need to encompass the situation in the study of personality, but with a focus on the acquired meaning of stimuli and on the situation as perceived, viewing the individual as a cognitive-affective being who construes, interprets, and transforms the stimulus in a dynamic reciprocal interaction with the social world. I focused on the idiographic analysis of personality that had originally motivated the field, and the complexity, discriminative facility, and uniqueness of the individual, and sought to connect the expressions of personality to the individual's behavior, that is, to what people do and not just what they say. Even the intrinsically contextualized "if...then..." expressions of the personality system--its essential behavioral signatures (Mischel & Shoda, 1995)--were foreshadowed in this book that fired the opening salvo in a search for "a truly dynamic personality psychology" (last page, last words, this volume). Much of the work my students and I have done in the years since then seems to have been guided by that outline. The reader who would like to see how this work has developed, how it links to the past, and how it looks to the future, should consult Mischel and Shoda (1995).

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